Conor Hazard looks set for Celtic start after Lennon remark

By David Walton

December 20, 2020

Celtic youngster Conor Hazard looks all but set to make his Scottish Cup debut against Hearts today.

Hazard has been chosen by Neil Lennon in recent weeks for matches against Lille and Kilmarnock respectively. Impressive saves in both matches have led to his burgeoning reputation increasing.

With Scott Bain and Vasilis Barkas generally disappointing this season, Hazard’s emergence has been huge. So much so that it looks as though Lennon is prepared to trust him for today’s Scottish Cup final at Hampden.

Speaking ahead of the game, the manager made the following remark which gives us some insight into what way his mind is swaying regarding his goalkeeping option.

As quoted by the Glasgow Times, Lennon said: “I have a decision to make on a couple of positions but we are nearly there on what we want in terms of the team. Conor will come into our thinking for the number one position.”

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Lennon doesn’t need to stay loyal to Celtic pair Barkas or Bain

One of the key talking points heading into today was Lennon’s “loyalty” comments last week. The Celtic boss said that he had to remain loyal to those who had gotten his side to the Scottish Cup final when picking his team.

That mainly revolves around players such as Scott Brown, Olivier Ntcham, Ryan Christie etc. But as for the goalkeeping spot? It remains up for grabs.

Celtic faced Clyde, Partick Thistle, and St Johnstone as part of this cup run last season. Only in one of those matches did Bain make an appearance – the 3-0 win in Clyde. Bain then played against Aberdeen in the Hampden semi but had nothing to do all game.

Celtic goalkeeper Conor Hazard / (Photo by Alan Harvey/SNS Group via Getty Images)

We don’t have a goalkeeper who played all four matches and therefore has earned his place at Hampden. If Lennon believes that Hazard deserves to keep his place then he has to give him the jersey. There’s no loyalty needing showing to Bain for his minimal contribution.

Lennon also wouldn’t have thrown that remark out about Hazard if he wasn’t going to select him. It would send out totally the wrong message to the squad if those who are performing don’t keep their place. Morale would only drain further.

So we’ll see what the teamsheet brings at around 1pm. But if there’s any other name than Hazard in goal, it will be a big surprise now.

In other news, Hearts’ Robbie Neilson prepped for today’s game in an odd way.